First Rio 2016 test event brings 23 Olympic medallists to city

evento_teste_vela_alexferro_29072014-1618_0.jpgThe first Rio 2016 test event, the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014, has brought some of the world’s top sailors to Rio de Janeiro. From 2 to 9 August, 324 athletes – including 23 Olympic medallists – from 34 countries will compete in 215 boats across five courses on Guanabara Bay, in the largest Olympic sailing competition ever held in Brazil.

“All the sailors who are dreaming of winning a medal at Rio 2016 are here,” said Australia’s Mathew Belcher, the London 2012 champion in the 470 class. “There are various Olympic champions here, and many more who will win Olympic medals. It’s my first time in Rio so my goal is to get to know and understand the climatic conditions, as well as to get to the know the city. I already knew that the wind varies from medium to low intensity in the bay and this will be a challenge for all the sailors.”

Belcher was joined in Rio by four other Olympic champions from the London Games: fellow Australian and 49er champion Nathan Outteridge, Spain’s Marina Alabau, who won the 49er FX, Holland’s RS:X  champion Dorian van Rijsselberge, and Sweden’s Max Salminen, gold medallist in the Star class, which has been dropped from the Olympic programme for the Rio 2016 Games.

Great Britain’s Luke Patience, who took silver behind Belcher in the 470, also spoke of the high level of competitors and the importance of getting to know the Rio 2016 Olympic venue. “The best boats in the world are here,” he explained. “It’s an important opportunity for us to get to know the conditions and gather information, but it’s also clear that everyone who’s here wants to be the first to win a title on the Olympic Waters.”

For Patience, the regatta is his first sailing competition in South America and he expressed his excitement about being in the next Olympic host city. “It’s a really exciting city, full of life and energy. It has a happy atmosphere and is known for hosting big celebrations, like Carnival and the World Cup. I’m really happy to be here and determined to do my best in the test event.”

The International Sailing Regatta is the first in a series of 45 sporting events that will take place in Rio 2016 venues that will allow athletes and the organising committee to rehearse for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The majority of the events will be held in 2015.